Weird space visitor has organic insulation — Oumuamua is the cigar-shaped object – about 400 meters long and only 40 meters in the other dimensions – that originated from somewhere else in the Galaxy and visited our Solar system while moving at nearly 20,9214 kilometres per hour (about 130,000mph). Scientists do not know where Oumuamua came from or what it is made of. It is not shaped like commonly seen asteroids, and unlike comets it does not leave a trail behind it, not even when it flies past the Sun. In fact, Oumuamua seems to be wrapped in a strange organic coat made of carbon-rich gunk that it likely picked up on its long travels through space…
~ Right, it wrapped itself. It’s Christmas after all.
The space station is the best thing we ever did — The International Space Station is one of the few nonstellar things up there that we can see from down here without instruments. It’s a prefab home the size of a football field, 462 tons and more than $100 billion worth of pressurised roomlike modules and gleaming solar arrays, orbiting 250 miles above the surface of the Earth. Its flight path is available online, and you can find out when it will make a nighttime pass over your backyard. Right on schedule, you’ll spot an unblinking white light that’s moving at 28,163kph (17,500 mph).
~ Agreed, it’s pretty awesome.
Physicists recycled WWII ships and artillery to unlock the mysteries of the universe — A million Russian artillery shells helped scientists discover the Higgs boson. All over the world, remnants of World War II weapons are built into the most mysterious experiments in physics.
~ Ploughshares, anyone?
Oil, gas production gone by 2040 — In France, anyway. France’s parliament has approved a law banning all exploration and production of oil and natural gas by 2040 within the country and its overseas territories. Under that law that passed a final vote, existing drilling permits will not be renewed and no new exploration licenses will be granted. The French government claims the ban is a world first. However, it is largely symbolic since oil and gas produced in France accounts for just 1% of domestic consumption.
~ Still, could be worse. You know, planet-wide apocalypse or something. No pressure.
Light, genes and brains — Along with his MIT neuroscientist colleague Dheeraj Roy and others, Susumu Tonegawa is upending basic assumptions in brain science. Early this year, he reported that memory storage and retrieval happen on two different brain circuits, not on the same one as was long thought. His team also showed that memories of an event form at the same time in the brain’s short-term and long-term storage areas, rather than moving to long-term storage later on. Most recently (and tantalisingly), his lab demonstrated what could someday be a way to bring currently irretrievable memories back into conscious awareness.
~ Hopefully, they also wrote it down somewhere.
Magic Leap into Mixed Reality — After raising US$1.9 billion dollars, Magic Leap finally showed off it’s “mixed-reality” goggles. Was the wait worth it? Rolling Stone got a look: “The revelation, the first real look at what the secretive, multi-billion dollar company has been working on all these years is the first step toward the 2018 release of the company’s first consumer product. It also adds some insight into why major companies like Google and Alibaba have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Magic Leap, and why some researchers believe the creation could be as significant as the birth of the Internet.”
Robot sweats while it does press-ups — In Science Robotics, researchers from the University of Tokyo showed off a humanoid that is strikingly lifelike not just in how it looks, but how it moves. The machine is a radical departure from the stiff, bumbling humanoids that have so far done a whole lot of falling on their faces.
~ It ‘sweats’ by circulating water through its frame to dissipate heat when it’s active.
De-extinction — For the past few years science writer Britt Wray has been delving into the strange field of ‘de-extinction,’ travelling the world to meet with scientists working to bring back species ranging from the aurochs to the thylacine to the woolly mammoth. One of the most promising efforts is Revive & Restore, which hopes to create a living passenger pigeon by the year 2022.
~ Perhaps she could start planning ahead, for us?